Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

History sent packing by cuts

Artifacts not currently on display to be shipped out of the province

  • Print

OTTAWA -- A large part of Manitoba's history is about to be boxed up and shipped off, likely to a warehouse in Quebec, as part of the Harper government's recent budget cuts.

Larry Ostola, vice-president of heritage conservation and commemoration at Parks Canada, confirmed Monday the agency will bring hundreds of thousands of artifacts -- furniture, clothing and even pieces of permafrost -- from across the country to a centralized location, likely near the Parks Canada headquarters in Gatineau, Que.

The consolidation is part of cost-cutting that's slashing $29 million from the Parks Canada budget over the next three years.

But archaeologists in Winnipeg aren't so sure this isn't a step toward killing off Canada's history, piece by piece.

"They are literally closing down the vast majority of records and our heritage and our history," said Leigh Syms, former curator of archeology at the Manitoba Museum and a professor at the University of Manitoba.

Parks Canada has an enormous collection of artifacts in numerous locations. Each item has been studied and preserved by teams of archeologists, museum curators and other experts.

In Manitoba, the artifacts are used to tell the stories of the province's history at Canada's national parks and historic sites, such as Lower Fort Garry near Selkirk and the Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site of Canada near Churchill. The items include such things as the clothing of early settlers and First Nations people. There is even organic matter from northern permafrost in Manitoba.

All the artifacts not currently on display in Manitoba will be shipped to Gatineau. Experts say taking them to a central depository removes them from the rotation museums use to change up their exhibits.

And it could take days or even weeks to recall specific objects from Gatineau if a Manitoba-based institute needs it for an exhibit or for research purposes.

Greg Thomas, a former archeologist for Parks Canada in Winnipeg, said moving everything to the Ottawa area is a blow to many tourism attractions.

Thomas said the regional offices provide a level of knowledge and expertise that a consolidated national location cannot match. It just doesn't make sense for someone in Manitoba to have to turn to someone in Ottawa when they want to learn about Manitoba history, he said.

The amount of work that can be done to collect, preserve and use artifacts also won't be matched, with an estimated 65 per cent of the professional staff at Parks Canada being laid off.

"We're talking the researchers, the historians, the archeologists," Thomas said. "These are the ones who can take these collections and work with the (national historic) sites to bring them to life."

Parks Canada is keeping a team of 10 national archeologists who will be called on when needed to go anywhere in the country, Ostola said.

The move will take place over the next three years, but there shouldn't be any worry that warehousing the items in Gatineau will be any different than warehousing them in separate locations across the country, he said.

"We will continue to have the expertise needed in all the relevant areas," he said.

Any time someone wants to access an item, they will be able to, he said.

Syms isn't buying it, noting it is hard to believe a smaller number of people can properly preserve and offer the same kind of access to thousands of items.

"They won't be accessible for historians for exhibits or for researchers," he said.

Thomas said the numbers aren't there to ensure the same level of service. There used to be more than 10 archeologists and historical professionals working in the western region alone. Now there will be 10 for the country, two based in Winnipeg.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2012 A3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart: Another Kick At A Paywall

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  070527 The 21st Annual Teddy Bears' Picnic at Assiniboine Park. The Orlan Ukrainian Dancers perform on stage.
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.

View More Gallery Photos


Will the closure of Future Shop affect your shopping?

View Results

Ads by Google